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Ukraine bans minority languages from public life

April 27th, 2019

A right-wing pundit fulminates against the Language Act passed by the Ukrainian Parliament which makes the use of Ukrainian, the ‘only state language’, mandatory in the public sphere.

The law is seen as being mainly directed against Ukraine’s approximate 10 million ethnic Russians, but it obviously harms the 100 thousand strong Hungarian community as well. Ukrainian is the predominant language in western Ukraine, while Russian is predominant in much of the east. Both languages are spoken widely in the capital Kiev, and most of the population speaks both fluently. In an earlier move, Parliament severely restricted teaching in minority languages. Since then, Hungary has been blocking rapprochement between Ukraine and NATO – to the annoyance of the United States.

In an outraged Magyar Nemzet editorial, Zsolt Bayer writes that even Romania’s erstwhile infamous dictator Nicolae Ceausescu recoiled from such oppressive legislation, basically outlawing the mother tongues of ethnic minorities except in private communication (‘How magnanimous!’ he exclaims). He accuses leading western luminaries of standing beside a regime which blatantly tramples on the basic rights of millions of its citizens.  Bayer doesn’t know what to make of Ukrainian President-elect Volodimir Zelensky’s promise to review the law once in office, and until further notice, he urges the Hungarian government to block any Ukrainian ambitions in the international field. In defending the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, he concludes, ‘we cannot in fact count on the likes of Judith Sargentini’ (the outgoing Green MEP who authored a harshly critical report on Hungary last year).